International students visit Wichita Mountains

March 16, 2012 Feature Print Print

Photo Courtesy Fikirte Hagos
Brahim Mabrouki, Anh Nguyen, Jose Alvarez, Han Nguyen, Jorge Castillo and Abbie Figueroa stop to preserve memories of their trip to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. Students learned about native people and wildlife as well as how Buffalo soldiers survived at Fort Sill in Lawton.

Thirteen international students got together late last month to tour the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge and the Fort Sill museum to learn more about Oklahoma’s history.

Many had not had the opportunity to explore Oklahoma, so they were excited on the drive to the southern part of the state.

“When you live in Oklahoma and you’re exposed to the interesting history, you learn to appreciate Oklahoma more,” said Abra Figueroa, professor of modern languages, who led the excursion.

“It is very important for people to know and understand the cultural history behind the state they live in, which is why I take my students on a trip every semester.”

The students came from different countries such as Vietnam, Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Photo Courtesy Fikirte Hagos
ESL students Hyundu Kim, Meesook Shin, Seokmun Song, Trinette Tran, Anh Nguyen, Brahim Mabrouki, Abdul Mohammed, Aykamar Wushur, Jose Alvarez, Fikirte Hagos, Han Nguyen, Vielka Madrid and Jorge Castillo pose for a scenic picture with some roaming buffalo at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge.

“I am excited to see the buffalo and to take pictures of the mountains because I have been living in Oklahoma for three years and I have not had the time to explore,” said Jose Alvarez, an international student from Guatemala.

At the Fort Sill museum students could see the way the soldiers lived in the barracks.

They viewed artifacts, like the swords the soldiers used in battle, the kind of clothing the Indians wore, and the types of guns the Buffalo soldiers used. They viewed paintings, such as “The Buffalo Hunt” by Alfred Jacob Miller, which is now estimated to be worth $23 million.

The label Buffalo soldiers was attached to cavalry units made up of black men who fought in the Indian wars in the latter half of the 19th century.

Some historians believe Indians gave the black soldiers the name because of their curly hair and dark skin coloring.

“My favorite part was hearing about the Buffalo soldiers and their achievements and how they got their name and learning about the legendary Geronimo,” said Fikirte Hagos, an international student from Ethiopia.

Geronimo is an Indian legend in Oklahoma’s history. After the defeat of the Apaches, Geronimo was imprisoned for a time at Fort Sill and lived out his life on a reservation near there, where he became something of a local celebrity.

Geronimo was called the medicine man because he was believed to have spiritual powers, including the power to predict the future.

Many Indians sought out for his help before battle, the tour guide said.

The tour was helpful in understanding Indian history and the tribes that remain today such as Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Kickapoo.

“I was very impressed with hearing the details in person,” said Meesook Shin, an international student from Korea.

“I will come back and tour the facility with my children.”

Figueroa said many students are stunned to see buffalo and longhorn cattle on the wildlife refuge. There were buffalo and longhorn cattle across the field, which the students got to observe and take pictures of. 

The journey was definitely full of Kodak moments, with students snapping pictures along the way.

Other students who attended the trip were Hyundu Kim, Meesook Shin, and Seokmun Song, from Korea; Trinette Tran, Han Nguyen and Anh Nguyen, from Vietnam; Brahim Mabrouki, from Morocco; Abdul Mohammed, from India; Aykamar Wushur, from East Turkistan; Vielka Madrid, from Panama; and Jorge Castillo, Mexico.

To contact Natalia Smith-Roberson, email

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